By: Sara Kovač
There is no evidence for the words of the President of the Court of Audit of the Republic of Slovenia, Tomaž Vesel, who expressed them in defence of his side business, which in five years, in addition to the salary of the president of the Court of Audit, gives him another million euros. A few days ago, when Siol portal revealed that, next to the salary as the public official, Tomaž Vesel earned another 202 thousand euros a year with the World Football Association (FIFA) based in Switzerland, he claimed that there was nothing wrong with his side job while working at the Court of Audit, which is otherwise to be concluded under Article 16 of the Court of Audit Act.
The President of the Court of Audit, Tomaž Vesel, even said that the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) had no comments, and stated that he informed the CPC about his side business, asked them for their standpoint and even received a written opinion from the Commission that, we quote Vesel, “they do not see any conflict,” we publish a snapshot of the page on the right. However, Vesel has not yet shown any evidence for his statement in public.
And there is the rub (for now). Namely, it can be heard that the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption has been looking for documents, of which Vesel spoke of for the Siol portal, for several days – but without success. That is why Škandal24 addressed questions to the CPC on Monday, which we publish in full in the box.
The President of the Court of Audit of the Republic of Slovenia, Tomaž Vesel, recently mentioned the CPC for the Siol portal in connection with his hundreds of thousands of euros in postal earnings at the World Football Association (FIFA). He said, quoting the record: “Vesel informed the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) before taking up his new position at FIFA and asked for their standpoint. In a written reply, they informed me that they did not see any conflict of interest and that the two functions were compatible.” (The full article is available at: https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/predsednik-racunskega-sodisca-cetrt-milijona-dolarjev-letno-ki-jih-dobim-iz-fife-ni-spornih-542032)
Therefore, we ask the CPC on Tuesday, December 29th, 2020 by 12 noon, for the following explanations:
– When did you receive the notification of Tomaž Vesel about his engagement for Fifa?
– Did Mister Vesel ask for a standpoint?
– When (date) did the CPC give its standpoint to Mister Vesel and on the basis of which article of which act?
– Is the consent indefinite?
– Please provide us with a written response that the CPC passed to Vesel, and which he mentions in a statement to Siol as the CPC’s standpoint.
Maša Jesenšek, in charge of public relations at the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, replied “Dear, We will send you the answer as soon as it is ready.”
Opinion of a lawyer
The lawyer, whose name is known to the editorial board, believes that two points have been disputed so far when discussing the engagement of the president of the Court of Audit with a million-dollar deal with FIFA: its incompatibility and the payment of taxes.
He explained as follows:
Vesel took the function at FIFA in 2016. In this regard, SIOL reported: Vesel informed the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) before taking the new position, and asked for their standpoint: “In a written reply, I was informed that they do not see any conflict of interest and that the functions are compatible…” In addition to precisely defined incompatibilities, the Court of Audit Act also stipulates that its position is incompatible even with a profitable activity, that according to the law is not compatible with a performance of a public function (e.g. according to the Integrity and Prevention of Corruption Act – ZIntPK). Notwithstanding the fact that FIFA is a non-profit international association, it does not follow that his activity in FIFA is non-profit.
Article 26 of the Integrity and Prevention of Corruption Act (http://pisrs.si/Pis.web/pregledPredpisa?id=ZAKO5523) stipulates that a professional official may not perform activities intended to obtain income or material gain. Exceptions are only: pedagogical, scientific, research, artistic, cultural, sports and journalistic activities as well as running a farm and managing their own property, unless otherwise provided by other law.
The closest to this would be sports activity, but he does not do that (he is not a player or a trainer), but he is performing a profitable activity of an auditor or supervisor in a sports association. If he wanted to exercise this exception, he would have to inform CPC within 8 days of starting the activity (not just asking about it before, like he did). Then the CPC would issue a decision on possible incompatibility.
There is an additional exception under paragraph 4 of this article that the CPC may allow the performance of other activities and issue a decision on this, which determines the conditions and restrictions for the performance of the function. These decisions are published here and for 2016 his is not there: https://www.kpk-rs.si/nadzor-in-preiskave-2/nezdruzljivost-funkcij-2/izdana-dovoljenja/
In short, no exception is allowed by law and no decision has been issued that could allow activity beyond these exceptions in the submission of CPC.
Based on the data in the media, the following conclusions are possible, which are unusual:
- CPC understood Vesel’s activity as a sports activity.
- Vesel asked CPC only about the incompatibility of the function in FIFA, but kept silent that he would be paid for it (and not only covered costs, for example). What matters is what Vesel actually asked and what the CPC answered him.
- The CPC issued a decision but did not publish it.
- Income tax
Vesel told SIOL: “He says that this is an unprofessional but paid position, which is not unusual abroad. He asserted that he had settled all tax liabilities and amounts for pension, disability and health insurance in Switzerland as well as in Slovenia. He emphasises that his remuneration also covers all travel expenses, so that in the end he is left with less than half of the gross amount.”
Only if he just paid the difference in income tax of up to 50% in Slovenia for this income tax class, he would be left with half of the amount. Let alone adding the contributions for pensions, disability and health insurance in Switzerland and Slovenia, and the travel expenses. It is true, he speaks of “less than half the amount”, but this would end up being more about a quarter of the amount. If he had nothing to hide, he would tell a more accurate net share he is left with. Here it is possible that he uses some detour or that he is even fictitiously registered in Switzerland.